When a crisis strikes, Airbnb and Facebook enable local communities to help.
In the wake of recent flooding in Louisiana, Airbnb has reactivated its Disaster Response tool, which aims to provide victims with a safe place in times of need. The service connects local Airbnb hosts to those in affected areas who need shelter, allowing hosts to open their homes at no cost, and further proving the power of the sharing economy.
Airbnb created the tool after being inspired by compassionate hosts who offered their rooms to those affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The company has since collaborated with disaster relief organizations and governments to ensure that the service reaches a broader audience of people in need. Since its launch, Disaster Response has been deployed during 47 global emergencies, and over 3,000 properties have been listed by hosts who want to help.
Similarly, Facebook has turned on its Safety Check following the Louisiana floods, a feature that allows users to inform friends and family of their safety when natural disasters or terrorist attacks take place. “When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe. It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters,” declared Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post following the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.
A similar phenomenon took place on Twitter with the #PorteOuverte movement, which saw people opening up their doors and offering shelter to those affected by the Paris attacks in November 2015. This initiative, however, was a grassroots response rather than a top-down initiative by Twitter.
The success of these tools comes down largely to their response times, ease of use and cost. More importantly, they appear authentic. While not all brands have the scale of social media titans such as Facebook, all brands can consider how digital platforms might help them connect their unused resources with those in need. As Airbnb and Facebook have shown, a desire to help and a creative strategy to leverage pre-existing resources can go a long way, and communicate a brand’s values to a wider audience.